Archive for May, 2008

Sex and the City: A Man’s Perspective
May 30, 2008

Ladies — and yes, this post is for you — this is the night you have all been waiting for. Slip on your Manolo Blahniks and start making those cosmopolitans. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are back from their six-year hiatus and ready to take us back to the sexually-charge streets of Manhattan for fun, fashion and frolicking. Tonight marks the national opening for the movie version of  “Sex and the City”.

Now you are probably wondering why me – a man – is even recognizing this event. Hasn’t the media told us that this is a moment that sisters nationwide are uniting and celebrating the return of the show that “speaks” to them? Why would a guy even take notice of the truly feminine event? Here’s why: I am a BIG ( pardon the pen ) “Sex in the City” fan … and you thought you knew everything about me.

I have seen just about every episode and have more than a few DVDs from previous season. I know the story of Carrie and Big. I know how Miranda met her beau and had her baby. I even remember how Carrie dissed Aidan, the man she probably should have ended up with, but that’s just my opinion.

Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Welcome back. We missed you.

Back in 1998, I caught the first episode of the series … and I was hooked. I loved the writing, the comedy, the bit of a lesson that was told in each lesson that was set up by the musings from Carrie’s typewriter. I later turned Sharon onto the series and soon it became our Sunday night tradition: Sex and the City and a martini. I even learned to like cosmopolitans although I admit when I ordered one in the bar, I would tell the bartender it was for the lady I was with .. even though there was no lady present.

I think it’s pretty obvious from my past blogs that I am in touch with my feelings, but this love of “Sex and the City” is not me “getting in touch with my feminine side”. Rather, it’s getting hooked on a show that speaks to all of us, men and women. It’s about friendships, relationships and the eternal search for that special someone to be your soul mate the rest of your life.

Sharon invited me to go to tonight’s premiere and I decided to take a pass. It’s late night and she’s going with a group of mostly women. I prefer to see it by myself at some point. I like to watch “Sex and the City” with four very special ladies that I got to know intimately over six years … and have not seen in four years. 

Carries, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha … welcome back! 

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Madden Gets Canned
May 28, 2008

I know those of you who read my blog are probably not the same audience that listens to ESPN Radio 1250 sports talk show host Mark Madden. The two of us could not be more different, however we have gotten to know each over the years since we do work in the same building ( yes, WTAE and ESPN Radio are housed in the same Wilkinsburg structure ). We also have worked together. He did commentaries for a year on Channel 4 Action News and I brought him on board during the first-year of “Action Sports Sunday”.

All that being said, it did not surprise me that he was “dismissed” by ESPN Radio for controversial comments. Mark (“Big Sexy to his legion of “Madden Followers”) has always done more than walk the line, he has stepped on it when it came to taste and subject matter. What surprises me here is that he as fired for his comments about Senator Ted Kennedy. They were inappropriate and insensate, but hardly  the worse thing I have heard him say.

 

 Mark Madden, now formerly of ESPN radio 1250

The decision comes from the national office in Bristol Connecticut. Locally, he was suspended by ESPN radio 1250, but being the face and voice of the station it would be hard to fire him because of what he means to that station when it comes to money. Madden’s personality helped distinguish the station from the competition and soon made his name a household word in Pittsburgh. What the firing tells me is that the guys in Bristol finally saw the insensitivity that we have seen for years. However, instead of insulting people in Pittsburgh he took aim at a important figure who just happens to live less than two hours from the Bristol campus.

It’s a strange dynamic at work here. Madden was hired to shock people, take on the establishment and increase ratings. He did all those things. It’s those same requirements that led to him finally losing his job. However, even Mark knows there is a limit to what he can say on radio. We told him there was a limit here at WTAE. In the end, Mark crossed that line in radio. I’m sure he will find a job somewhere in radio because as long as you can draw listeners, you will always be employed. Don’t believe me? Last I checked, Don Imus was still making money more than a year after his comments about Rutgers became a national controversy.

And The Winner Is ….
May 27, 2008

There will be an interesting and hopefully revealing meeting tonight in Canonsburg.

At 7pm at the Canonsburg Eagles lodge, the Washington County Humane Society will explain why they failed to win a million dollar makeover contest sponsored by the website zootoo.com. For those of you not familiar with the contest, the pet-friendly site offered a million dollar makeover to the animal shelter which got the most people in its community to visit the site during a six-month period ending in March.

Sounds like an easy contest .. at least that is what we thought. After months of voting – and more than a few stories in the local media urging people to vote for WCHS shelter – they finished in first place in the nation. However, WCHS did not win the first prize. They did not even make the top three finalists. They did receive a ten thousand dollar prize though .. and that is nothing to sneeze at for this shelter which takes care of over 50 dogs and more than 100 cats.

Looking at the contest rules this morning ( the fine print in this case ), deciding the winner is not so clear cut. By accumulating the most votes, WCHS only qualified for consideration. Seems the top 20 vote-getters from 974 shelters nation-wide qualify as “finalists”. From there, each of those “finalists” will go through an evaluation from a panel of judges including members of the Shelter Planners of America. It was at their discretion as to which shelter was most deserving of the million dollar makeover – and obviously, they did not feel WCHS was a deserving shelter.

I’m sure tonight WCHS will try to explain the rules of the contest – and how they fell short in their efforts and how happy they are to receive the $10K prize as a finalist. However, I’m not all that impressed with this “contest” in which the grass-roots efforts of WCHS were not rewarded and the outcome was decided by a “special panel” which used a criteria they failed to divulge to choose their winner.  While I’m not here to cast judgment on this contest, I would say that they should have been more clear in what the contest criteria were and just how much influence we have as voters. In the final analysis, this contest is designed just to get people to visit the zootoo website … and in that, it was a success.

 

The “Let’s Go Pens” Video
May 23, 2008

One critic called it a “Black and Gold” conga line while another said it made him “cringe”. Many viewers hav e-mailed the station to say it has made  laugh and fired them up for the playoffs and we have gotten more than a few requests for copies of it.

What is it? It’s WTAE’s newest promo cheering on the Pens in their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. While it’s not yet an internet hit ( 535 hits on You Tube as of 4am ), it’s become a source of laughter for many viewers and more than a couple have asked me about the story behind it.

If you haven’t seen it, you can click here for the video. It’s only 15 seconds, but it’s enough time to squeeze in a laugh as well as showcase the lighter side of our news team. In the spot, Michelle and Wendy are taping their feet to the tune “Let’s Go Pens” and Wendy gets up and reveals a Pens logo on her currently enlarged belly ( she’s pregnant ). Next, it’s Sally and Mike having an impromptu hockey game in the studio .. and Sally cross-checks Mike. Then, we got to JB who’s working on the computer and swinging his white towel at the same time. The spot ends with Kelly and I marching to the beat across the set.

Our promotions department came up with the idea .. and it’s a simple one: why not get behind our team and have fun at the same time? I know I enjoyed doing it. As a sportscaster for many years, I could not be a fan and show my support in a vocal way. I always felt such behavior would take away from my credibility as a sports journalist. Even though I enjoyed watching the Steelers, you would never catch me yelling “Let’s Go Steelers” on the air.

Now, I work on the news side of the business. Even though I’m still someone who is not supposed to play favorites, when it comes to sports I’m so far away from the daily coverage in the locker room I can have fun. I went to my first Steeler game – as a fan – last year and sat in the seats and ate and cheered and booed. When I go to a hockey game, I don’t mind giving the visiting team some verbal abuse. For the first time in many years, I can watch my local teams as a fan and behave in that manner.

That’s why I like this promo. We are all – at heart – fans of our local teams and when they are playing for a championship why not get into the spirit. I hope the video – at least in a small way – expresses that feeling. And by the way, the Pens jersey I’m wearing in the spot is mine. I love the powder blue look and I would not mind if they wore that more often.

Let’s go Pens! I think they will win it in seven games … which means at least two more weeks of us here at channel 4 moving to the tune “Let’s Go Pens”!

 

 

Not A Banner Day
May 22, 2008

There are days I’m proud of our city and take pride in the advancements we have made to bounce back from the economic downturn of the closing of the steel mills to being a technology-driven, modern city worthy of the title “America’s Most Livable”. Then, there are those moments that make wonder if our city is still we are still stuck in the stone age.

The latter is the case surrounding the latest city government flap. Here’s the gist of it: Because of the whole electronic message board fiasco on Grant Street, there is a moratorium on signs and banners being put up in downtown Pittsburgh. A moratorium that neither city council nor the mayor seem willing to try and lift in time to honor the Penguins.

The proposed Penguins Banner which may .. or may not .. go up downtown

There was a plan being floated to put up a giant banner downtown to recognize the Pens as they pursue their first Stanley Cup in 16 years. This would seem like a no-brainer, just lift the ban and raise the banner. However, because of the controversy surrounding that proposed message board on Grant Street and how certain parties tried to get it approved, a moratorium was put in place on all signage in town.

Are you kidding me? Are we really going to let petty politics get in the way of a moment of civic pride? I’m looking at this not as a journalist, but as a fan who knows that these moments in the one-time “City of Champions” do not come around often and to miss the chance to celebrate this cup run because a few politicians can’t seem to come to an agreement strikes me as flat out ridiculous.

There is still time for the mayor and the city council to do the right thing … and just for this moment … suspend the moratorium on signs. I sincerely hope that will be the case. Otherwise, our leaders have given us one more reason to be cynical and another reason not to believe they have the best interests of our city at heart.

However, the politicians do get a bailout. They happen to govern one of America’s most beautiful cities so even if thr banner doesn’t fly, Pittsburgh will still show well on television. It will shine like a city on the hill, but with no visable signs of the silliness that took place behind closed doors to deny the Pens and their fans a moment to celebrate.

Talking About My Generation
May 20, 2008

Turning 40 Friday wasn’t just a awakening for me, it really speaks to where my generation is. Oh, by the way, I’m part of Generation X. You remember “Gen Xers”? We were the hip and cool generation about a decade ago. Gen Xers are described as those born after the Baby Boom, between 1965-1980. We grew up with MTV, video games and were the first to make computers part of our daily lives.

Now we are ages 27 to 43 … while those who were born after us have become the “cool and hip” generation, we have become the parents and the movers and shakers in society. We make up the largest part of the work force and we are the demographic group that marketers crave. We are also a generation in financial trouble.

As article in this morning’s USA Today  paints a rather depressing picture for people in my generation. We are the first group which not only has to save money for those rising costs of education for our children, we also have to pay our massive student loans. While are salaries remain flat, at best, the cost of everything from gas to groceries is going up. Perhaps the most frightening thing of all? Our generation’s life expectancy will surpass our parents, but we are woefully prepared for retirement. Nearly half of the people in Gen X are not saving for retirement … and some of us are actually tapping what we have saved to make ends meet.

All this, while we continue to live in a society where we want the best, the biggest and we want it now. We are told by advertisers we must have the latest cell phone, the latest HD TV and the newest car. Peer pressure only adds to the volatile mix which could see many of my generation not only not prepare for retirement, but living a lifestyle that is much less affluent than it is now.

I know it’s not easy for us to save and put money away. Heck, there are plenty of people who make upwards of $100K who still can’t afford a home. However, the challenge for us as a generation is to somehow plan for an uncertain future in these uncertain times. That means putting away money as best we can and prioritizing our expenditures.

I think I will take Kelly’s advice for the summer. When I asked her about her plans for summer vacation, she told me about something called a “stay-cation”. I think you all know what she meant. It’s not a bad idea and maybe a start to getting control of our lives and our finances until this economic spiral stops. Another idea, which you can do here in Pittsburgh because the housing market is relatively stable, is down-size. Sharon and I did that when we sold our home and moved into a town home. Just the money saved on lawn care and external maintenance made it worthwhile.

I just hope my generation will be able to enjoy the good times in the near future and prosper. While we may not – and may never be – “the Greatest Generation” like the boomers, we can still be great and enjoy the economic promise of this country.  

A Very Big Thank You
May 19, 2008

I have to say a big “thanks” to everyone who turned what I thought would be a quiet birthday into one of the best moments of my life.

Last Friday was my 40 birthday and the morning crew decided to have a little fun with it. Kelly made her famed super moist cake and took time to tell viewers about “this date in history” 40 years ago. Demetrius kept telling everyone that temps were in the “40’s” and that it had rained on 5 of the previous 7 May 16ths.

However, it was once I was off the air that the memorable stuff really started. My computer has been flooded with e-mails. Some of those from friends, but most coming from viewers. The people who read this blog and many more who do not took time to wish me a happy birthday and know I was not alone in reaching the 40’s. There were so many e-mails that I’m still reading them this morning … and trying to reply so please be patient. Thanks you’s are on the way.

Then, there was my cell phone on which I got so many texts. Some from people I had not spoken to in years. However, the capper of the day came that night. Previously, I had committed to serving as emcee for a benefit at Oakmont Country club on behalf of Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and his wife, Jan. I did not tell them it was my birthday … and the only way Jan found out was buy watching the morning news that day.

Well, when I got there, Dave and Jan had planned an impromptu celebration. During the night, they had the staff bring out a big slice of birthday cake and a bottle of champagne and the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday”. Suffice it to say, I was shocked and more than a little overwhelmed by their kindness and thoughtfulness.

The celebration – which included a weekend of golf for Sharon and I near Gettysburg – came to a conclusion this morning when Robin Roberts wished me a belated birthday. She was off Friday so it was very sweet of her to offer her best wishes. Thanks Robin!

I guess I have been touched by all these gestures because even though I work a  high-profile job, I tend to think I don’t have a lot of good friends and that my birthday doesn’t mean much – even number 40. I feel very different now. A milestone birthday that would have passed without much mention became the best birthday I ever had because of people like you who took the time to wish me well. I feel loved in a very different way and that is all thanks to you. I guess sometimes the best celebrations are the ones you don’t plan.

One last note: Happy birthday to morning show reporter Amber Nicotra. To be sure she is many years from the big 4-0!

A Once-In-A-Lifetime
May 16, 2008

I wanted to come up with a title that didn’t blurt out the subject for this blog … which happens to be my birthday. I hate to toot my own horn, but I thought this particular birthday would be on worth talking about. Today, 40 years ago, I was born in a hospital in Chicago ( although my mom says I poked my head out into the world about 5:52pm ). Yes, I have finally reached the big 4-0.

I’m sure it’s a shock to some of you. I know when I told Kelly how old I was she actually did a double take. I don’t know whether it’s cool or not in the TV biz to tell people how old you are, but I don’t really care. I think the more shocking thing is that I have been in Pittsburgh 13 years. I never thought I would have lasted this long, but they seem to like me around here.

I always wonder what 40 felt like. Would I suddenly turn 40 and – like most appliances when the warranty expires – break down? Would I suddenly become much wiser the minute the clock struck midnight on my birthday? To be honest, as the hours tick away on my 30’s, I fdon’t feel older and in many ways I’m probably in better physical shape than I was during most of my 30’s.

Wearing my dad’s hat and gloves after he came home from work ( circa 1970 ). I could not wait to grow up and be in his shoes. 38 years later,  I am wearing those shoes.

I usually like to take my birthday and look back on where I have been and where I am going. ReI usually like to take my birthday and look back on where I have been. Regrets? Of course there are, however there are also moments I am very proud of. While I do wish some things may have gone a certain way, I think I am right where I hoped I’d be at age 40. I have a loving wife, a child ( OK, it’s a dog but you get what I’m saying), a job that I love and friends and family members in great numbers. Best of all, I am healthy and feel fairly optimistic that I am not playing “the back nine” of my life.

While my wife had a big celebration with friends and family in Las Vegas when she turned 40, I plan to be low key. Heck, I have a charity event that i am hosting tonight in Oakmont for Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt. I  thought Sharon and I would enjoy a quiet weekend of golf, dinner and rest. For me, with this schedule, rest is the greatest present I could receive.

I just hope it goes better than my 30th birthday celebration. Sharon and I were dating at the time and somehow we got lost at the airport ( my fault ) missed our morning flight to Washington DC and spent all day trying to get there via plane, bus and automobile.

By the way, thanks to you frequent readers ( Bev and Denise – as well as the parents of former traffic reporter Melanie Taylor ) who took the time to send me birthday greetings. It’s unexpected and very much appreciated.

 Birthday update:

It was quite a birthday morning here in the newsroom. I got a birthday call from Melanie Taylor, Ashley sent me a card, well wishes from everyone and Demetrius and the gang got me a bottle of Riesling ice wine. But the capper was Kelly bringing in her home made super moist cake. Only on special occasions does she make her super moist cake.

Then, on the air, it was “40” jokes left and right, birthday wishes from our business reporter Jane King and the stat of the day from Demetrius: It’s rained 5 of the last 7 times on May 16th.

What a wonderful morning … and what a way to start my 40’s.

 

A Waste of Time?
May 15, 2008

There are some stories that I just don’t get. Spygate is one of them.

It’s not the basics of the case. I understand the Patriots are accussed of stealing signals by videotaping them and that’s a no-no. I know they were found guilty and penalized by the league for their transgressions including the 200 AFC Championship game in which they beat the Steelers.

Here’s my issue. Does a well-respected U.S. Senator need to hold hearings into the matter because he’s not satisfied with the punishment doled out by the NFL? Does Arlen Specter have nothing better to do with his time?

US Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania ( courtesy Associated Press )

Here we are in the midst of the greatest increase in gas prices ever and he wants to investigate the NFL’s handling of a cheating incident? Look folks, let’s take of the black and gold glasses for just a moment here. I was in the stadium covering the 2002 title game and I can tell you the Patriots did not need to steal signals that day to beat the Steelers. Special teams breakdowns, two bad pass from Kordell Stewart and a sure touchdown dropped by Joey Porter and that ended the Steelers super bowl hopes.

So why is Arlen Specter in such a hurry to probe this case and – if he deems worthy – pull the NFL’s anti-trust blanket? Let me just say this: one of his biggest campaign contributors is Comcast which is currentlt battling the NFL on the issue of carrying the league’s cable network. At the very least, there is a conflict of interest here.

I guess I’m just angry that with all the problems we have as a country from an economic point-of-view, an on-field cheating scandal is the least of our worries and a hearing like we had for baseball’s steroid scandal is nothing more than grandstanding and a waste of taxpayer dollars – yours and mine.

I’ll credit Specter for appealing to the emotions and passions of Pittsburgh Steeler fans, but for a man who has earned much praise and admiration for the way he has handled and beaten cancer, it’s hard to respect him when his priorities are so misplaced. 

Can It Be This Easy?
May 14, 2008

My first beat when I arrived as a sports reporter at WTAE in 1995 was covering the Penguins “quest” for the Stanley Cup. The team was made up of veterans like Ron Francis and Larry Murphy and I would travel with the team as undertook that grueling ordeal known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Players and analysts would tell me this quest for hockey’s Holy Grail was the most difficult journey in all of sports. You played one night, traveled the next and hit the ice for some sort of skate every single day. Of course, you never shaved during the deal. That was part of the tradition, the so-called “play-off beard”.

With that as a prelude, could someone tell me why a group of kids barely old enough to shave are sweeping their way through this most difficult of gauntlets with relative ease? I mean think about it: the Penguins are one win away from going to the Stanley Cup Finals and have lost just once in 12 post-season games.

This entry is not to analyze the Pens path to the finals nor to break down the series. That’s why we have a knowledgeable sports department. What I am marveling at is perhaps the greatest turnaround in recent sports history. I can remember sitting in bankruptcy court not that long ago as Mario Lemieux tried to save the team – and more to the point the $27M he was owed by the franchise. I can remember that even when they won the draft lottery and landed Sidney Crosby how bad the club was his first year in black and gold.

I can also remember the strike and how I thought hockey was sunk in this country as one of the big four sports ( baseball, basketball and football being the others ). Well, hockey never regained its hold nationally, but here in Pittsburgh a hockey renaissance is taking place powered by a nuch of kids barely old enough to drive.

Best of all, it has brought out a new generation of sports fans in this town. A section of fans who may have grown up with the Steeler tradition, but wanted something they could call their own. Now they have it. They wear their powder-blue Pens jerseys with as much pride as they sport their black and gold gear.

Will the Pens win the Stanley Cup? I hope so, but I’m sure it won’t be a four-game cakewalk to the cup. Then again, these kids are too young to know that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. I guess they just figure a sweep is the shortest way to reach their goal … and get the summer off to enjoy it.

 

 

A Voice from the Past
May 13, 2008

One of the really great things about my job is that because we are featured prominently on TV and on the web, it’s easy for your former classmates to find you. Such was the case last week.

I got an e-mail from a former classmate of mine at Simsbury High School. Her name is Sarah Bayne and her message read “Is this the Andrew Stockey from SHS?”. I was happy to say it was … and we started to catch-up. Sarah left Connecticut and now is a talented artist living in metropolitan Washington D.C. You can see her work on her website, sararhbayne.com. She is also a Flyers fan, but I forgive her for that.

While it talk about the past and how things have changed, it was even better when she turned me on to the Facebook website. I will admit I have never actually looked at Facebook, but Sarah told me several of our former classmates have pages there. Sure enough, it was like looking back in time and having those people who meant so much to you as a kid now having families of their own.

My former high school classmate, Sarah Bayne, now a respected artist working the Washington D. C. area.

Always when I end up talking to former high school classmates, I get to wondering how different my life might have been had I taken a different path. What if I stayed on the road I chose in high school of working in sales and finance? What if I had decided to play football college? What if, instead of attending Ohio University, I accepted the invitation to enroll at Williams College? Also, what if I had decided not to go on that blind date ten years ago last month in the strip district to meet this girl named Sharon?

Yes, our lives may have been vastly different based on the choices we made. However, the choices I have made led me to this point in time … and I have no regrets. If anything, I take joy in looking at where my former classmates have ended up and pride in knowing we all started from the same place.

I’m very happy for Sarah and excited to hear from her and hear her life has led her to success into the world of art … even if she is a Flyers fan!

 

A Mother’s Day Tradition
May 12, 2008

Hope everyone had an incredible Mother’s Day!

Mine was fantastic. Of course, anytime I can have my mom and dad spend a weekend with me, it’s special. As we have the past few years, we spent mom’s day in Schenley Park taking part in the Race for the Cure.

Taking a snapshot at the finish line with Mom and Dad. Sharon was playing the role of photographer.

My folks are both in their 70’s and  very active and both walked in the 5K event on race day. For my mom, she runs in celebration of her sister who is a breast cancer survivor. My dad just loves striking up conversations with people which include Sally Wiggin. Because my folks live in another city, it’s cool to see them interact with the people who means so much to me here in Pittsburgh.

Once again, mother’s day at the race is a moving and emotional event, especially the survivor ceremony. However, what sticks with me is being on stage and looking out from Flagstaff Hill at the sea of humanity. 36,000 people and all those tents. The Race has grown in just 16 years from 300 people in the rain and one registration tent … to thousands and tents sponsored by everybody from McDonald’s to Spaghetti Warehouse ( which donated a 35×35 foot lasagna dubbed “The World’s Largest” ).

The number that sticks with me is $20M. That’s how many dollars have been raised in 16 years for breast cancer research. It’s a relatively short period of time to raise so much money  $1.9M this year. It speaks to the support Pittsburgh has given this event. An event I will continue to attend as long as I call Pittsburgh home .. and hopefully, my parents will also make the trip every year for what’s become a Mother’s Day tradition for my family.

Happy Mother’s Day
May 9, 2008

I’m met Kelly Frey’s mother last night at the Great Tasting at Heinz Field last night. Now I can see where she gets her smile, her charm and her sense of humor. Someone once told me if you want to know what a woman you are dating will be like when you are deep into marriage, look at her mother. I can tell you that is true as Sharon becomes more like her mother every year we are married … and that is a good thing.

On this Mother’s Day weekend,  I wondered what the son’s relationship to mother is. While we are not the spitting image of our mothers, unlike girls, we do carry many of the traits that our mothers have. Like my mom, I have been blessed with good skin that might save me from serious wrinkles for a few more years. I also have my mother’s patience and compassion for others … and like my mom, I tend to be laid back and calm when chaos strikes.

My mother and I weeks after I graduated from college in 1989. Ready to leave the nest and embark on life’s great adventure after years of her guidance. I hope the path which I have taken makes her happy and proud of me.

I love my mom. While she is soft-spoken and often prefers to stay out of the spotlight, she has a light all her own. She has taught me about humility and compassion, love and passion and what it means to live every day to the fullest. As I get older, I cherish the time I spend with her and my father, knowing it will not always be like this. While I am an adult, in her eyes I’m still her son … and even at age 70, she often looks at me as that little child who occasionally needs guidance on life’s sometimes rocky path.

This Sunday, we will once again take part in the Race for the Cure together in Schenley Park. It has become a new tradition for us. While we are there to help raise funds in the battle against breast cancer, I also look at is as quality time with my mother. A chance to develop more memories of her and I. Memories that I know will last a lifetime. Both her lifetime and mine.

Happy Mother’s Day to you mom … and to all the mother’s out there.

Wild About Wine
May 8, 2008

Before I delve into the world of wine, a story about an attempt by some overzealous fans inspired our desk assistant, Kevin. He had a great idea for a bet between the mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for the upcoming Stanley Cup semi-finals.

Kevin says based on an effort by some Penguin fan to get someone in Philadelphia to put a Pens jersey on the famed “Rocky” statue, Mayor Luke Raventstahl should make this bet with Philly mayor Michael Nutter. If the Pens beat the Flyers, the Rocky statue should wear a Pens jersey for a week. If the Flyers win, the Roberto Clemente statue at PNC Park should sport a Philly jersey.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Now onto wine .. and the winding down of the Pittsburgh Wine Festival. The week-long celebration, designed to get consumer to consider wine as part of their daily dining fare, concludes with tonight’s Grand Tasting at Heinz Field. Over 600 people will be able to sample wines from 200 vineyards from around the country. It’s one of the best parties of the year .. but for those who think it’s an exercise in excess, be warned.

Wine tends to carry that cache of luxury and elegance. However, an article in today’s New York Times confirms what I think many of us suspect about wine: it’s not about the cost, it’s about the taste to the individual palette. A recent study had 500 people sample 540 unidentified wines ranging in price from $1.50 to $150. It found that the cheaper wines constantly outscored the pricier bottles with consumers. However, the study also found that once people are told how much a bottle of wine costs, they are more likely to enjoy it.

Bottom line here is that wine will always be seen as being related to the good life, but the good life need not cost you a arm and a leg. Kelly just did a story Wedneday about how to enjoy the millionaire’s world of wine on the budget of a beer drinker … with all the wines that were suggested by local dining insiders costing under $15.

As for me, it was the movie “Sideways” that got me into wine .. and I still prefer the cheap stuff. Sharon once brought home some imported wine costing $75 a bottle. I tried a glass and I still don’t know what the difference between that stuff and the typical bottle of Clois Du Bois chardonnay I normally buy.

Oh well, taste is in the tongue of the beholder. Enjoy.

 

A Special Walk In Waynesburg
May 7, 2008

I don’t know how many charitable events I do every year. I have lost count. I’m not saying this to brag, rather I’m pointing this out because part of my responsibility in my position is to give back … and that includes hosting everything from awards ceremonies to golf tournaments .. and there are many. While they are all special and important in one way or another, there are a few that have become special to me personally.

One such event is the Relay for Life event in Waynesburg, Greene County. Relays for Life raise both funds and awareness of cancer in communities all across this country. In May 2001, I was contacted and asked if I would be the emcee for the opening ceremonies. It’s a long way from Pittsburgh and the North Side where I lived at the time. Still, I thought what the heck. I had been to the area while covering high school sports and I thought a one-time appearance would be a positive thing.

Taking the ceremonial opening walk at the Greene County Relay for Life. I’m on the left. To the left of me is Emily Mathason and to the right, holding the banner, is Christina Lahew

That was eight years ago. Each year since, I have returned in early May to join 300-plus people, many of them survivors, in the opening recognition ceremonies followed by taking a lap around the Waynesburg Central High School track. The event never ceases to both amaze and move me .. sometimes to tears.

So why do I go back? What is the draw? It’s the story and the courage of two young women. One of whom I have known since the very beginning. Christina Lahew was five years old when I first met this cancer survivor. She was young and with a positive attitude and tremendous courage, she beat cancer. She is now 13 and each year have the one day to get together and exchange stories and talk about how our lives have changed. She is now a near straight-A student and wants to become a foresnics expert. While she has two wonderful parents, I can’t help but feel like a proud dad when I see her grow each year.

 

Sharing an hugwith Emily Mathason at Greene County’s Relay for Life last Saturday

Emily Mathason is now 21 years old. We first met a few years ago this relay. She is also a cancer survivor. A young girl of great courage and strength. She wants to become an actress and stage performer and plans to pursue her dreams in Los Angeles. As you can see, when we first saw each other at this year’s relay, we hugged as well, like two friends who had not seen each other in a year .. because like with Chrissy, it’s our yearly reunion.

It’s these two women … and the great communities of Greene county … that have captured my heart and cause me to come back every year to take part in this special event. Just one of many I am honored to do every year around western Pennsylvania. It’s not more important than any other. It’s just special to me.